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If you follow baseball at all, you probably have heard of the Chicago Cubs curse. In 1945, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern was asked to leave Wrigley Field because his goat was offending the fellow patrons. He left, but not before supposedly putting a curse on the Cubs, which of course is why they will never win a World Series.

I’m wondering if someone, somewhere put a curse on volunteers who win awards. I can see it now, back in 1666, a local physician, being given an award in London for volunteering to help with the great plague, walking up on a makeshift stage while the crowd cheered. A nobleman in the crowd, astride his horse, was asked to leave because the horse, well, frankly, kept defecating in the crowd. Incensed, the nobleman left, but as he rode away, he yelled, “Any volunteer who wins an award shall heretofore be cursed!”

A friend of mine, who is a volunteer coordinator just recently told me the story of one of her volunteers who just won a very prestigious community award. The celebration was long and happy, and the organization, who normally did not win awards was very pleased. Within a month, this volunteer not only imploded, she created a legal situation for her organization. Within a month? Strong curse!

Maybe awards go to the volunteers’ heads. Maybe we choose the volunteers who are already on the path to self destruction, but it is an eerily repeating scenario. What is truly ironic is that we often award volunteers who cross boundaries. Those who go “above and beyond” are the ones we choose because their stories are compelling and why kid ourselves? The volunteers that play strictly be the rules don’t win the awards.
My fantasy is that there would be an award titled: He who does not stray from the rules. How incredibly boring that would be! The fine line between a great volunteer and a great volunteer that over steps is too narrow for even a Flying Wallenda to cross.

So, here’s to those volunteers who win. Be happy, but careful, because that curse may just get you